The Fine Print

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Sweet Cherry Jam...

The other day I decided I needed to do a little "domesticating"...yah, cause I am just not busy enough!
Anyhow, Daddy Dearest was away on a hike with "the guys" so Jax and I headed off to gather supplies.
First we picked up some jars (I needed some for another project I will post shortly) at Canadian Tire - we selected the Bernardin 500ml (2 cups) jars as they are a generous size! Then we headed off to Calgary CO-OP - they had cherries on sale for $1.99lb and they were the perfect ripeness for our needs. We also were able to find Certo Light there and it is pretty difficult to come by for some weird reason!?! For this project, we bought 4.5kg's of cherries and 4 boxes of Certo Lite.
Then it was home to start the preparation for the Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam - here is the recipe that I used - it was from the "What's Cooking Kraft" website.
Here it is (with my notes added):

Sweet Cherry Freezer Jam
4 cups of finely chopped pitted cherries
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups of sugar
1 box of Certo Light Pectin Crystals

Make it:
Wash and pit all your cherries. I used my cherry pitter that I bought a couple of years ago (I believe the brand is XOXO) and then I put the cherries into my handy dandy Tupperware Powerchef System with the chopper blade - 12 pulls. I chopped them in batches and got them all ready ahead of time.
It is important to note that IF YOU ARE DOUBLING, TRIPLING, or QUADRUPLING the recipe - you MUST do it in single recipe quantities - I don't know why but "my mother told me so" is a good enough answer for me! Something about the pectin not working properly.
Measure the prepared cherries into a non-color absorbing bowl (another VERY IMPORTANT STEP) so your nice green tupperware bowls don't end up with cherry juice stains down them. Just saying'!
Measure your sugar and set aside.
Combine fruit pectin crystals with a 1/4 cup of the measured out sugar.
Add pectin mixture to the prepared cherries, mixing well. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the remaining 2 and 3/4 cups of sugar and continue stirring for 3 minutes until most of the sugar is dissolved.
Pour into clean, sanitized jars (I ran my through the dishwasher on a hot sanitize cycle just prior to filling). Cover with tight lids and let stand at room temperature until they are set (may take up to 24 hours).
Store in freezer. If used within 3 weeks, jam may be stored in the fridge.
This recipe yielded 11 and 3/4 - 500 ml jars of yummy sweet cherry jam.
I had about 1 cup of minced cherries & juice left over and decided to make an awesome cherry & port sauce for our BBQ'ed pork chops we had for dinner that night!

Look at these luscious little gems! Washed and ready to be pitted...
Removing the pits from these little guys took about 1/2 hour....
Ever wondered how many pits your get from 5kg's of cherries?
And finally I am done!!!
Next I filled my Powerchef half full of pitted cherries...
And pulled the cord about 12 times - give or take -...
I did this in batches to keep my consistency the same...
When I was done chopping them all up, it was time to measure them out and make the jam. As I mentioned above because I Quadrupled the recipe, I did 4 separate bowls...
Once the recipe was complete...I poured them into 500ml jars and sealed them up...
But they were looking a little lame-o so I opened up Photoshop and created some simple yet elegant labels for the tops of the jars...and voila!!!
Ready for the freezer - or for whomever was lucky enough to receive a jar from Bootybella's kitchen!!!
Until next time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sensory Tables Overload...

A few months ago I asked a good friend of ours, Thomas, if he could help me bring a project for my dayhome to life!
Thomas took on the project of making me my sensory tables for the children a couple months ago. He quickly took my visions of a few different styles and put them together to create (NOT ONE, BUT FOUR!) Sensory Tables for the kiddos to start exploring and playing in. What he came back with far surpassed my expectations - the care and details that went into the construction was so thoughtful!!
We went with four separate tables so that I had 2 for inside play and 2 for outside play. Although I haven't gotten the time to stain these beautiful creations yet (it really is a BIG decision as to what colour/stain to use), they are part of our daily motif!
Once I selected the bins (which are all Sterilite 10 gallon bins with locking lids from Wally World and were approx $12 each) Thomas went to work! He built two levels to hold the bins, so that instead of empty space under the tables, they served a second purpose of storage for a second bin. He also made small grooves to correspond with the bin so that the bin actually "locks" into place and doesn't slide around while the children are playing with it! This man is genius - seriously! He also sanded the tables down so they were smooth and ready for play!
Since before I opened my dayhome, I felt it was a strong desire to incorporate this type of learning/play in our daily regime, due to the overwhelming amount of benefits to the children. If you want to learn more about Sensory Play, please check out this great article by Earlychildhood NEWS - Sensory Experiences Can Be Messy Fun
I wanted to share a couple photos of the stunning craftsmanship that Thomas brought to our home! Thanks Thomas!!!
So for our first bin - my little guy is all about Diggers, Dozers, Skidsteers, Graters, Dumptrucks - pretty much ANYTHING CONSTRUCTION! So I though it was only fitting that this was our first bin!
The key to building a bin is gathering as much as you can from current stuff you have laying around the toy room and home to begin with...
I have been keeping my eyes peeled at garage sales for little additions as well!
I scored a bag full of "Bob The Builder" figurines and toys at the beginning of the season, and the small CAT equipment was another garage sale find! The measuring cups, ice cream scoop, and spoons came from the Dollar Tree and the construction pylons and signs were kicking around from other toy sets in the home. I decided to use black beans as a medium for this bin as they were nice and glossy, felt great in our hands, and were black - just like DIRT!(Plus - they are pretty easy to clean up if they happen to get spilt outside of the bin!) I kid you not, my little man can't wait to get up in the morning and finish breakfast so he can go and play "Con-SRUC-sion"!!!
Once Thomas' daughter Daria returns from her summer holidays in Polland, I have asked her for some help on building some of the bins! Well, I would love to hear some of your ideas for our future boxes!!! Please feel free to leave a comment or two below! You never know, I just may use your idea in our dayhome!

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Herb Garden of Many Varietals....

So I asked for herbs for Mother's Day (instead of flowers...)which have patiently sat in their purchased containers on my front deck for over a month.....waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to decide where/how to plant them. For awhile I thought I would get a strawberry pot (highly available when you are NOT looking for one!) but then gave up my search! Then I came up with the idea of using some wine crates I had laying around. These were the perfect destination for my fresh garden of seasoning....moveable and fashionable!!!
I stained each crate with mineral oil (which is safe to ingest by the way - instead of those other stains on the market) and filled them with dirt, chalked full of MIRACLE GROW!!! (which probably isn't safe to ingest!! LOL!!!)
Then I simply transplanted my herbs into three different boxes....I still left some room in the last box, because I want to pick up a couple more (oregano, mint & dill) so I needed a little space to plop them in.
Here are my pots that I did this year....
I wanted lots of green with a little splash of white to them, so I filled them with Hostas, Ivy's, Coleaus and White Snap Dragons. I also found this curly spiky plant that added some great texture!
Love the crispness and freshness of everything right after a spring rain!
Ready to welcome SUMMER with arms wide open!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

So You Had To Have A Mandolin Hey? Now What???

Mandolins are a culinary piece of equipment that have been around for years. They are magnificent in their efficiency but can be intimidating to use. I have put together a little list of uses for that slick gadget as well as a couple recipes to follow.
Tupperware has just released an amazing mandolin that you can purchase only if you host a party!
Here is the user guide to make each precise cut:
So once you get one - here are some great uses for this kitchen must have:

• Trimming fingernails if you are foolish enough not to use the finger guard – rest assured, you will only make this mistake once! A friend of mine who is a chef recommends using a Kevlar Glove (search online or any store that sells Hardware Supplies like Lee Valley Hardware/Home Hardware etc – average around $20 but are totally worth the investment). It will give you much more control of your slicing and also allow for less waste. The gloves are machine washable and usually come in a pair (reversible for either hand) so you will always have one available when the other one is in the wash! It will change your Mandolin experience from ho-hum to spectacular!!! (On a side note – these are also a must for oyster shucking!!!)
• Slicing Onions tissue paper thin for soups (Wonton, French Onion, or Pho) or salads (Greek, Marinated Onion Salad, House), as well as for Pizza Toppings – plus + no more tears.
• Great for perfect consistency for Caramelized Onions as a side dish. Perfect consistency means consistent cooking rate.
• Potatoes Au Gratin or Scallop Potatoes.
• Slicing pears or apples for a salad with goat cheese, spinach, nuts and a vinaigrette or for a fruit tart like Pear & Gorgonzola Tart.
• Good for making potato crisps or to slice ribbons out of any firm vegetable like zucchini to dip in a batter and fry or grill.
• Easy to julienne carrots or cucumber for summer rolls or sushi.
• Baked Apple Chips, Sweet Potato Chips, Zucchini Chips, or Beet Chips for a healthy snack!
• Great for slicing cucumbers for pickles – uniform slices present perfect pickle presentation – say that 10 times!
• Slicing cucumbers for tea/finger sandwiches, pinkies up!
• Shaving fennel or beets for salads, cabbage for making sauerkraut.
• Ribbons of summer squash that you can quickly blanch to add to pasta dishes

Potatoes Au Gratin
Slice about 4 large potatoes (skin on or off – up to you – I leave it on because I like the look!) and 1 large onion, thinly sliced…with your mandolin
Layer, alternating potatoes and onions, in stack cooker if preparing in the microwave or ultra pro if using the oven.
Mix 1 tub of sour cream with 1 tsp. garlic seasoning (I use Johnny’s Garlic Seasoning from Costco), 11/2 cups – 2 cups of milk, 1 cup grated cheese, salt and pepper.
Pour over the top layer of potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with one more cup of shredded cheese.
If baking in the oven – approximately 45 mins or 15 mins in the stack cooker in the microwave.

Baked Apple Chips
2 small apples
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a wire rack with cooking spray and place in a 15x10 inch jelly roll pan.
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently.
Using the mandolin, slice apples to 1/16 inch thick slices.
Quickly before they start to brown, place apple slices in the boiling sugar mixture. Turn heat down to a simmer. Cook apples, stirring often, until translucent and syrup start to thicken, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from heat and quickly remove apples from syrup 1 at a time using tongs and place flat on wire rack set inside the jelly roll pan. Discard excess syrup.
Bake apple slices 10-15 mins, or until golden. Transfer to lightly greased wax paper. They will feel soft at this point but will crisp up as they cool.
Optional For Apples: Sprinkle with Tupperware Vanilla Cinnamon Seasoning
Optional For Sweet Potatoes or Beets: Sprinkle with fresh cracked sea salt
Optional For Zucchini: Sprinkle with paprika & sea salt - paprika not only adds flavour but helps to boost your metabolism, reduce your appetite, and lower your blood pressure - according to the people in the know!

Summer Rolls
Serves 16
Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Summer rolls:
2 heads Boston lettuce
3 carrots
4 scallions, including 3 inches of green
16 rice paper wrappers (spring roll)
32 fresh mint leaves
32 sprigs fresh cilantro
2 red bell peppers, julienned

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1 tablespoon peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp.chili paste
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 tbsp. water
1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 fresh red Thai Chili pepper, seeded and thinly sliced, optional
Sriracha sauce, for garnishing, optional

Rinse lettuce and pat dry. Do not use center ribs and leaves. Set lettuce aside. Peel carrots with Universal Peeler. Cut carrots, scallions, and bell pepper into julienne pieces, using Chef Series™ Pro Chef's Knife. Dip a rice paper into a bowl of water for 5 seconds. Shake off excess and place on Simply Perfect™ Pastry Sheet. Place several lettuce leaves on the bottom third of the rice paper; top with carrots, scallion, bell pepper, mint and cilantro leaves. Fold the bottom of the rice paper up over the vegetables. Fold in the sides and then roll up. Repeat with remaining wrappers and vegetables. Keep rolls covered with a damp paper towel until serving time. Arrange on serving platter and serve rolls with dipping sauce.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
Heat the oil in the Chef Series™ 8"/ 20 cm Open Nonstick Fry Pan and, when hot, add the garlic and Chili paste, and cook until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add the peanut butter and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before serving. Serve in small bowls, garnished with the peanuts, sliced chilies and optional hot sauce. May be served warm or at room temperature.

Happy slicing my friends!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Some Things Are Worth Paying For...

Over this past year we have download, installed and uninstalled countless Apps for our IOS Devices for our little man. Some were hot, some were not! So I set out on a mission in the last couple weeks of 2013 to actually spend some time researching ratings of educational apps for our soon to be "toddler"! The apps that I chose and that he has immediately fallen in love with are very well put together and have learning capabilities that I felt he should be able to grasp, yet not get bored with them two weeks later. I thought I would share my finding....

Night & Day Studios
Peekaboo Barn $1.99 Farmyard animals are always a hit with out guy! In two days he has learnt 3 new animal names in this app!
Peekaboo Fridge $1.99 Great for learning all about food!
Peekaboo Forest$1.99 Every time Jax sees the deer he associates it with John Deere - therefore we always have a laugh when he calls the deer "John's"!
Peekaboo Wild $1.99 Some big names to learn in this app! Jax loves a challenge!
Peekaboo Sesame Street $2.99 One of Jax's favourite due to the characters! Guess the branding is worth the extra $1!!!
Kindermusik $1.99 A Great selection of tunes that he recognizes from class and loves to get down to!
A great feature is that you can actually record your own voice in these apps - so your little one will recognize mommy or daddy or even themselves as they start speaking! The only disappointment I have with this company is that you have to pay twice to have these apps on your IPHONE and IPAD. Kinda sad, seeing that I already gave you my money once. Overall, the screenshots, music and voices are very pleasant to look at and listen too, and the value of $1.99 per app was worth the price.

Duck Duck Moose
Peek-A-Zoo $1.99 Great app with dancing, hiding, eating, wagging tails, sleeping and so much more! At first Jax was a little standoffish of this app - but he now gravitates to it when he wants a little challenge! A little advanced for him right now at 20 months but he will definitely grow into it. Also liked the voices and background music in this one - not annoying if left on for long periods of time! Very important!!!

Tree Betty Design
Peek-a-Zoo (The Original)$2.99 A great way to learn recognizable zoo animal names and sounds!
Peek-a-Zoo Underwater $2.99 Magnificent creatures from the ocean - still trying to peak his interest in this one!
Peek-a-Zoo Train $2.99 Favorite of Jax's - probably due to the CHOO CHOO!!! All aboard!
Peek-a-Zoo Moo $2.99 Jax's love for farm animals grows in this app every day!
First off, I think this is my favourite set of apps visually! Age wise, they are recommended from 9 months to 3 years. They are artistically and tastefully picked pictures that my son adores! Very easily recognizable animals! Secondly, I loved the fact that I could purchase the entire group of apps for $8.99, as they are the most expensive apps that I am reviewing today, at $2.99 a pop - but most definitely worth it! Great work Tree Betty!

THUP Games
Lunchbox Preschool Monkey $1.99
Although this app can be a little loud for my liking, this is Jaxon's FAVORITE games on the entire planet right now!!!! This app has 6 different games that teach kids about colours, letters, counting, shapes, differences and matching. Not bragging here, but my kiddo is DA BOMB at this app!!! We video him 5 times a day, growing smarter and smarter on it!!! Fist bump THUP Games - keep em coming!!!


Marion's Beef Rolls - Recipe Share - Best Appie Of 2014

So I have this wonderful friend named Marion who made these scrumptious little appies for a Ladies Night at my house before the holidays. We all gobbled them down, between sips of beer and wine!!! They tasted like roast beef dinner in a bite! And we all screamed the same thing..."I MUST HAVE THIS RECIPE" which she replied "Oh, they are so easy". Ok, they are "easy", once you get a system in place, and have some guidance (thanks Marion for the last minute pep talk before assembly!) So...the holidays came and went and I took them a couple places and those people said "I MUST HAVE THIS RECIPE". So I decided it was worth posting the play by play on my blog, just incase there was any confusion around some of the directions. So the wait it over - this WILL be your "new favourite appie of 2014" I guarantee you!

So to get started the first thing I did was give my fresh Italian parsley a good wash in my salad spinner. This gets rid of all that crud that you don't see and perks it up a little bit!
Then I pinched off all the parsley leaves from their stems and put them all into my Tupperware Quick Chef System. (On a complete side note - I LOVE this freaking machine - it is easy to use and you control the thickness of fineness of your chopping/dicing/mincing by how many times you pull the cord!) Pulled the cord about 6 times to dice up nicely!
Next, I gave the Quick Chef a quick rinse and tossed in my onions to dice them up. I enjoyed a sip or two of wine at this point, as I didn't have to spend any time wiping tears out of my eyes...because I used the QUICK CHEF! Am I making you want to get one of these gadgets yet?
Meanwhile I melted my salted butter in the microwave until it was warmed and smelt delicious! To that I added the parsley, onion and horseradish - and stirred it all up to incorporate!!!
So I bought the CO-OP brand of Phyllo pastry for a couple reasons - it was cheaper (because everything is so bloody expensive at that store in the first place, and secondly, it was wider than the name brand that they carried. This is important to know, if you are looking for a final number of "bon bon's" that this recipe will make. Once you thaw these pastry sheets overnight in the fridge, you will need to know that you will have to have a clean, damp tea towel to wrap them in once you open the pack. This will keep the pastry sheets from drying out - as they do this very quickly and are very delicate - hence why people don't like working with this pastry. Guarantee disclaimer - these will be sooooo worth the effort to carry on my friends! I kept the folded in the plastic wrap they came in, and just wrapped them loosely in the tea towel.
So when you are ready to start, take out two sheet of Phyllo and place them on top of each other. By the time I had finished making these, I had figured out the trick to perfecting these morsels! When your sheets are laying flat, one on top of the other, fold the top half down of the top sheet. Take your scrumptious horseradish parsley butter and brush on. When you are finished, fold up the top sheet to cover the half that you have buttered. Then do the same with the bottom half, folding up then down. This was my "AHHH HAAAA" moment - so much easier than trying to brush one entire sheet and then trying to line up the top sheet with the two hands you were given!
Then add your second layer of butter mixture...that's right Paula Deen... just a little more but-ah makes it bet-ah!
Here comes the important part - sectioning!!! First cut - your entire two sheets into 4 big rectangles...
Then you are going to cut each big rectangles into 4 small rectangles. These are your pieces you will be rolling up. now you are ready to assemble. Take your slice of deli roast beef, mine was a good wide consistency so I was able to cut each strip into 3 pieces. Place one piece on a rectangle of Phyllo and get ready to roll - baby!!! Only note to mention here is to make sure that your beef is not hanging out the end that will be at the end (the top if you are rolling from the bottom up - which I was), so that it seals properly.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment and place on the sheet when finished rolling. Once you are done the entire sheet (work quickly my friends) I just popped them into the freezer to "flash freeze" them to a consistency that I could then stack them in a container or in ziplocs for further freezing until I am ready to cook them.
So I was such an expert at this by the time I blew through all my roast beef, I thought well, I suppose I could make a variation of this with other meats and butters... so, I took out some homemade cranberry sauce, onions and butter and made some rolls with turkey breast. These were pretty good too! But my favourite are still the roast beef bon bon's! But thought I would share the photos of both...

So now for the recipe....
Marion's Beef Rolls
1 Box CO-OP Phyllo Pastry Sheets (16 sheets to a box)
1.5 cups butter, melted
1.5 hearty bunch of fresh Italian Parsley
2 onions, minced
10 tbsp of prepared creamed horseradish
1000 grams deli garlic roast beef, sliced

Chop up fresh parsley. Mince up onion. Melt butter in microwave safe bowl. Add onion, parsley and horseradish. Incorporate.
Lay 2 sheets of Phyllo pastry ontop of each other, pull back top half and spread with pastry brush, the butter mixture. Fold up the top piece, then do the same with the bottom. Once your two pieces have butter in-between them, lightly brush to edges with more butter mixture.
Cut pastry into quarters, then each quarter into quarters again = 16 pieces.
Lay a strip of beef ontop of piece and roll up.
Repeat with remaining pastry, horseradish butter and beef.
Place on a parchment lined baking tray and bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp. Watch closely not to burn.
Serve with a horseradish mayo for dipping.

Note* I have modified the recipe above to accommodate enough for 1 box of CO-OP Phyllo. In my photos I had left over Phyllo so therefore was able to do the Turkey Rolls from the same box.
For the Turkey breast rolls I used 1/2 cup butter to 1 cup of cranberry sauce.
I would imagine your fillings are endless but you could also try Chicken breast with garlic butter or Ham with Dijon Mustard butter.

NOW, I know this looks like ALOT OF WORK - but I promise you it will be entirely worth it! And if I could do it (and take photos of every step to share with you), then you have no excuse - now get rolling!!!!